Monday, February 4, 2008

Take Up a Lenten Discipline

Aaahhh…Lent. My favorite time of the liturgical year! Lent is a time to dig deep, to go within yourself and hunt around for where the Spirit is dwelling, a time to reflect and get on board with what God is doing in your life.

The most common tradition associated with lent is to “give something up.” In my younger years, I hated this tradition. I didn’t want to give anything up; I only wanted more! At that time in my life, instead of giving something up for Lent, I would add something life-enhancing to my daily routine. Some ideas to add: prayer, read a book on spirituality, go to church, meet with a pastor to discuss your journey, take an art class, go to therapy, exercise. The list is endless really. As long as you are taking something on that will improve your health in mind, body or spirit, you are on the right track.

However, I have finally reached the point where giving something up works for me and brings healing to my life. I do not give up things that I like such as chocolate or going to the movies, although there is value in that if one is attempting to learn self-control or develop discipline.

During Lent, I choose to rid myself of some thought process that is preventing me from living the abundant life that Jesus offers to the faithful. This year, I am giving up judgment. Judgment is poisonous to the self and others. When I judge myself, it creates doubt within me, and then I cannot follow Christ when he calls or act on the inspirations of the Spirit. Judging others is also no good for so many reasons, (like Jesus said not to). I suppose the main reason I want to quit judging others is because, when I do, I don’t really get to know people as well. I assume things about them, which becomes a barrier to authentic communication. Also, when I judge people I already know well, I tend to make critical comments about them, which is destructive to relationships if given carelessly. Plus, I have learned through spiritual masters that judging someone else often says more about me than it does about the other.

A few years ago, I gave up guilt. For 40 days, whenever I felt guilty, I just gave it over to God. By Easter Sunday, I had learned so much about the difference between healthy and unhealthy guilt that started saying “no” to the unhealthy kind and the suffering it produces, and I started acting upon healthy guilt, making changes in my life.

This lent, please take up a Lenten discipline. They hold the promise of being transformative. Either take something on that will bring you closer to God and make you a more loving, joyous person or give something up that is preventing you from living the life that God offers God’s children. The hope is that in 40 days, your life might change for the better.

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